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French (le français or la langue française) is a Romance language, belonging to the Indo-European family. French is the official language in 29 countries, most of which are members of la francophonie, the community of French-speaking countries. It is spoken as a first language in France, southern Belgium, western Switzerland, Monaco, certain parts of Canada and the United States, and by various communities elsewhere. As of 2015, 40% of the francophone population (including L2 and partial speakers) is in Europe, 35% in sub-Saharan Africa, 15% in North Africa and the Middle East, 8% in the Americas, and 1% in Asia and Oceania.
French has a long history as an international language of commerce, diplomacy, literature, and scientific standards and is an official language of many international organizations including the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, the WTO, the International Olympic Committee, and the ICRC.
German (Deutsch) is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and (co-)official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), and Liechtenstein; it is also an official, but not majority language of Luxembourg and Belgium. Major languages which are most similar to German include other members of the West Germanic language branch, such as Afrikaans, Dutch, and English.
One of the major languages of the world, German is the first language of about 95 million people worldwide and the most widely spoken native language in the European Union. German also is the third most widely taught foreign language in both the US and the EU, the second most commonly used scientific language as well as the third most widely used language on websites. Germany is ranked fifth in terms of annual publication of new books, with one tenth of all books (including e-books) in the world being published in the German language.
Italian is a Romance language, the closest to Latin in terms of vocabulary. It is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City and Istria (in Slovenia and Croatia). Italian used to have official status in Albania, Malta and Monaco, all countries where it is still widely spoken, and in former Italian East Africa and Italian Libya, regions where the language plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is spoken by expatriate communities in the Americas and in Australia and by small minorities in areas such as Crimea, Corsica Montenegro. Many speakers are native bilinguals of both standardized Italian and other regional languages.
Italian is a major European language, being the most spoken language in Mediterranean Europe and one of the six official languages of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (along with English, Spanish, French, Russian and German). Italian is the third most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union with 65 million native speakers (13% of the EU population) and it is spoken as a second language by 14 million EU citizens (3%). Including the Italian speakers in non-EU European countries (such as Switzerland and Albania) and on other continents, the total number of speakers is around 85 million.
Spanish, also called Castilian, is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native-speakers across the world.
Spanish is a part of the Ibero-Romance group of languages, which evolved from several dialects of common Latin in Iberia after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. It was first documented in central-northern Iberia in the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia. Beginning in the early 16th century, Spanish was taken to the colonies of the Spanish Empire, most notably to the Americas, as well as territories in Africa, Oceania and the Philippines.
From its beginnings, Spanish vocabulary was influenced by its contact with Basque and East Germanic languages, as well as by neighboring Ibero-Romance languages, and later it absorbed many Arabic words during the Al-Andalus era in the Iberian Peninsula. It also adopted words from non-Iberian languages, particularly the Romance languages Occitan, French, Italian and Sardinian, as well as from Nahuatl and other Indigenous languages of the Americas.
Russian is an East Slavic language and an official language in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and many minor or unrecognized territories. It is an unofficial but widely-spoken language in Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, and to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics of the Soviet Union and former participants of the Eastern Bloc. Russian belongs to the family of Indo-European languages and is one of the three living members of the East Slavic languages. Written examples of Old East Slavonic are attested from the 10th century onwards.
It is the most geographically-widespread language of Eurasia and the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages. It is also the largest native language in Europe, with 144 million native speakers in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Russian is the eighth most spoken language in the world by number of native speakers and the seventh by total number of speakers. The language is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.